PUSHING FOR PRESS FREEDOM IN THE CARIBBEAN

johnpressfreedomI was recently in Trinidad to  participate in a series of workshops on media self-regulation and election coverage. It was a great experience and I believe progress was made in efforts to advance press freedom in the Caribbean and in deepening election reporting. One of the local newspapers, the Trinidad Guardian, sat down with me for a report on my visit.  Journalist Reshma Ragoonath did a good job of capturing our conversation and my various presentations over the two-day session. Here’s some of her report:

IPI vice-chair to T&T journalists: Push for more press freedom

By Reshma Ragoonath
Published: Sunday, October 12, 2014
Miami Herald world editor and vice-chair of the International Press Institute John Yearwood. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

International Press Institute (IPI) vice-chair and award-winning Trinidad-born journalist John Yearwood says while this country’s press freedom remains “very much alive,” local journalists must continue to push for more freedom to practice their profession. Yearwood, also chairman of the IPI North America committee and world editor at the Miami Herald, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, said Government’s repeal of criminal defamation was a positive step, but journalists must take charge of their enshrined right to freedom of the press.
“That (repeal) gives you a sense that although the Government does not always listen, it does on some things in helping to advance the cause of press freedom.  “But as with everything else, journalists need to continue to push and push for more freedom, and I think that is really, really important. “It is good to see that the Government is involved in helping that, but journalists need not to stop, they need to keep pushing for it,” Yearwood contended.

Yearwood, who is orignally from Point Fortin, but is now based in Miami, was in T&T last week for the Association of Caribbean Mediaworkers (ACM) and T&T Publishers and Broadcasters (TTPBA) media workshop on covering elections, at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s. He said more was needed to be done to protect journalists who are threatened and subjected to abuse and intimidation. This, he said, is really unfortunate. “The intimidation of some journalists, that needs to stop.” He hastened to add, that for the most part, the conditions journalists operate under in T&T “is much, much better than in many places around the world.” He said the workshop, which featured sessions on understanding the elections process, reporting on election surveys, democracy and journalistic excellence in the Caribbean and media self-regulation, was a good initiative by the ACM and TTPBA.

For the rest of Reshma’s report, go here.

IPI ‘EXTREMELY CONCERNED’ ABOUT ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI

CNN report after journalists were arrested in Ferguson, Mo.

CNN report after journalists were arrested in Ferguson, Mo.

INTERNATIONAL PRESS INSTITUTE

NORTH AMERICAN COMMITTEE

For Immediate Release

MIAMI, Aug. 18, 2014 — While Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has replaced local “militarized” police officers with the State Police and National Guard, the North American Committee of the International Press Institute calls on law enforcement entities in Ferguson, Missouri to, in the future, abide by the U.S. Constitution and not impede the work of journalists covering the aftermath of the tragic death of Michael Brown. Journalists have reported being harassed, tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets and even jailed while on assignment in Ferguson.

“We are extremely concerned that police in Ferguson trampled on the First Amendment in their zeal to bring the situation there under control,” said John Yearwood, chairman of IPI’s North American Committee. “We call on all law enforcement agencies operating there to respect the rights of journalists to report on conditions in Ferguson and to do so without intimidating the media.

“To see journalists in America treated with disdain and disrespect and threatened with bodily harm – much like the journalists we work so hard to protect around the world — is horrific and unacceptable.”

The North American Committee is one of 20 International Press Institute national committees. IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists. It is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

For more information, contact John Yearwood,jyearwood@miamiherald.com, or 305-376-3467.

SOUTH AFRICA: CAPTIVATED NATION

Oscar Pistorius at his best.

Oscar Pistorius at his best.

JOHANNESBURG — I’ve just landed in South Africa and it hasn’t taken long to learn what’s captivating this nation.
Moments after hopping into a taxi at Oliver Tambo International Airport for the ride to the smaller Lanseria International Airport (to catch a flight to Cape Town), the driver switched on the radio, saying “it’s time to hear the latest on the Oscar Pistorius  trial.” Sure enough, the coverage was dominating the airwaves as he switched among channels.
During the 45-minute ride, he often shook his head in disbelief as he listened to the athlete being grilled on the stand. At the airport, I picked up three newspapers, all with the Pistorius trial dominating their front pages.
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp.

I don’t know whether Pistorius intentionally murdered his girlfriend, the model Reeva Skeenkamp. But what’s clear is that lots of people here are hooked on every word.
I did hear a new theory — at least to me — on the radio. One caller said Oscar didn’t know Reeva was in the bathroom because after their fight, she was sleeping in another room. Not sure if that’s fact or fiction. But interesting stuff.
If you want to keep up with the trial, The Star newspaper had the following links: www.iol.co.zawww.iol.co.za/Oscar-live-blogwww.iol.co.za/Oscar-live-video.

FOOD & DIPLOMACY

South Beach Food & Wine

Food & Wine Festival

With the South Beach Food & Wine Festival taking place over the weekend, Miami was a great place to be if you love food. It was also a good place to be if you love diplomacy.  I enjoy the former but much prefer the latter. And it’s even better when you can combine the two. My weekend involved lunching with the former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda on Saturday, driving to Palm Beach on Sunday to interview former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and lunching with Miami’s entire diplomatic corps.

Jorge happened to be in town over the weekend and my friend Beatrice Rangel, the highly regarded international business executive, used the opportunity to bring together a few friends for a lunch on her Miami Beach terrace. The group was a mixture of people from around the Americas — Venezuela to Argentina to Mexico to Trinidad.

LONG WAY FROM RABAT

I last saw Jorge in Rabat last October at the German Marshall Fund’s Atlantic Dialogues. It was a great to catch up with him. We had great conversation about pressing issues in

Jorge Castaneda

Jorge Castaneda

the region and at one point we were passing around cell phones to show pictures of the demonstrations taking place in Venezuela at the time.

A big thanks to Beatrice, one of the first people to take me under her wing when I arrived in Miami a decade ago. It’s good to see her back in town. (Two weeks ago, she was my guest for the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations annual dinner.)

PALM BEACH VISIT

On Sunday, I drove to the Four Seasons in Palm Beach to interview Barak for an upcoming Miami Herald Issues & Ideas newsmaker Q&A. I reminded him that I was in Israel seven years ago when he was first appointed defense minister – after his time as Prime Minister.

With Ehud Barak

With Ehud Barak

We had intended to talk for about 25 minutes but our conversation stretched on for 40. We touched on an array of topics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Haiti and Latin America. He was in town to speak at the American Friends of Magen David Adom, which supports MDA, Israel’s national emergency medical response and blood services organization. MDA was among the first outsiders on the ground in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

CONSULAR CORPS LUNCH

On Monday, I attended the annual American Jewish  Committee’s Consular Corps luncheon. The speaker was Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland. I

Miami Consular Corps

Miami Consular Corps

spent 10 minutes with him before the luncheon to talk about his recent meetings with Pope Francis and the pope’s planned trip to Israel in May. Rabbi Rosen has met the pope five times since he was inaugurated last March. Look for that conversation in the Miami Herald soon.

Komla Dumor: Great spirit, big heart

BBC presenter Komla Dumor

BBC presenter Komla Dumor

I’ve worked with young people around the world for a decade now, helping to empower them to seize the future. Many have created innovative projects on everything from reducing poverty to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

I though the youths could benefit from listening to someone I have only recently come to know. His name: Komla Dumor. We met in October at the German Marshall Fund’s Atlantic Dialogues summit in Rabat. Komla gave a short speech to open the summit; I moderated the opening plenary and spoke at the group’s Emerging Leaders Forum. Komla and I hit it off instantly. A Ghanaian journalist who eventually settled in London, he became the face of the BBC in Africa. His latest job: presenter of Focus on Africa and European mornings on BBC World News TV.

We strategized on how the BBC and the Miami Herald could partner on coverage in specific areas. We were excited about executing an idea out of Ghana that will have impact with the Herald’s large Caribbean readership. I looked forward to visiting with him on my next trip to London. In the months since, we exchanged emails and followed each other’s activities on Twitter.

As I prepared to attend this month’s youth summit in Dakar, I thought Komla would be a terrific addition to the program. I emailed an invitation. Silence. I was surprised because I know how much he enjoys working with young people. I resent the invitation.

“I’m sorry for not responding quickly,” he wrote back, almost instantly. “I’m just a bit overwhelmed by a number of issues I’m dealing with.”

And he apologized for not being able to join me in Dakar. Last weekend, as I flew out of Dakar after the summit,  came the most tragic of news: Komla Dumor was dead. Heart attack as he slept.

At just 41 years of age, Komla had made a success of his life but he had so much more living to do. And so many more lives to influence. I am saddened beyond words. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife and three children. He left us way too soon.

A TRIBUTE TO MY DEAR FRIEND MURIEL WITH THE HELP OF BEYONCE

REST WELL, DEAR MURIEL

Muriel Glascow. Born in Guyana she went to a great life of service to her community ad the word through her work with the United Nations. A true humanitarian.

Muriel Glasgow. Born in Guyana she went on to a great life of service to her community and the world through her work with the United Nations. She’s a true humanitarian who will be missed.

It’s an understatement to say the news of your passing shocked me to the core. You always seemed so full of life. And that’s regardless of where I’ve seen you — whether riding on a New York transit bus or on a presidential jet. Your passion was infectious; I know far more about early childhood education than I ever thought possible. Above all, you maximized each day, living as if tomorrow’s not promised. What a fearless heart!

When we launched the M&M Project, you embraced it with fury, although none of us was quite sure where it would lead. The time you spent with us was all too short. But who am I to question its length? I’m thankful for the precious hours, days, months and years. And like everyone you touched, I can proudly say that you were here.

Rest well, dear Muriel.

THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: FINDING A SEAT AT THE TABLE

Hoping that everyone is able to find a seat a the table this Thanksgiving. This was the second World Desk show I did for the Miami Herald on a Thanksgiving Reader published by the American Jewish Committee. The goal is for everyone to celebrate our differences at Thanksgiving. My guest was Brian Siegal, the AJC’s director for Miami-Dade and Broward.